United States District Court, District of Columbia
MEMORANDUM OPINION GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTIONS
TO DISMISS; DENYING WITHOUT PREJUDICE PLAINTIFF'S MOTION
RUDOLPH CONTRERAS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Jane Doe, a survivor of sexual abuse as a middle and high
school student between 2004 and 2009, initiated this case on
February 2, 2018. Doe brings claims against her abuser, Alan
Coleman; the two educational institutions that employed
Coleman between 2004 and 2009 and allegedly knew of the
abuse, Kipp DC Supporting Corporation (“Kipp DC”)
and Capital City Public Charter School, Inc. (“Capital
City”); and the founder and then-principal of Kipp DC,
Susan Ettinger. Doe also brings claims against ten unnamed
agents and employees of Kipp DC and Capital City. Defendants
have separately moved to dismiss and all argue that Doe's
claims are barred by the statute of limitations. While the
Court is sympathetic to Doe's plight, and more generally
to the difficulties encountered by victims of sexual assault
in obtaining civil relief for their injuries, it finds that
Doe's claims are time-barred under D.C. law. The Court
accordingly grants the motions to dismiss. Because Doe's
motion to amend her complaint fails to comply with its Local
Rules, the Court denies the motion without prejudice.
began attending Kipp DC in 2000 or 2001, and was a student at
the school until 2005. See Compl. ¶¶ 1,
20, ECF No. 4. She first came into contact with Coleman
during the 2004-2005 school year, when Coleman became her
eighth-grade science and history teacher. Id.
¶¶ 21, 28. After gaining her trust and confidence,
Coleman began sexually assaulting Doe a few months after they
met, in approximately November 2004. See Id. ¶
26. Coleman would go on to continuously abuse Doe for the
remainder of the 2004-2005 school year, subjecting her to
frequent sexual assault and humiliation. See Id. Doe
alleges that Ettinger and Kipp DC eventually came to suspect
that Coleman was having inappropriate relations with her.
See Id. ¶ 33. She further alleges that these
suspicions led Kipp DC to discontinue Coleman's contract
at the end of the 2004-2005 school year. Id. ¶
29. Coleman subsequently found employment with Capital City
starting in the 2005-2006 school year. Id. According
to Doe, while Ettinger informed a Capital City board member
of her suspicions, neither she, Kipp DC, nor Capital City
undertook to investigate Coleman or in any other way take
action to protect Doe and stop the abuse. See Id.
being promoted to the ninth grade at the end of the 2004-2005
school year, Doe left Kipp DC and began attending another
school. Id. ¶ 28. However, Coleman's abuse
continued. See Id. ¶ 29. Doe's mother
learned of the abuse during the 2005-2006 school year and
reported Coleman's behavior to Capital City. Id.
¶ 31. According to Doe, Capital City failed to take any
disciplinary action against Coleman. Id. In 2007,
Coleman manipulated Doe into moving into his house, where
they slept in the same room and bed. See Id. ¶
51. As a result, the frequency of his assaults escalated.
See Id. ¶ 53. Doe turned eighteen in 2008.
See Id. ¶ 1. The relationship did not end until
June 2009. Id. ¶ 26.
February 2015, Doe began to realize the wrongfulness of
Coleman's behavior. On February 20, 2015, she questioned
Coleman on Facebook about whether their relationship had been
wrongful and abusive. Id. ¶ 34. On February 25,
2015, she asked Coleman to resign from his teaching position
at Capital City, where he was still employed. Id.
After he failed to do so, Doe contacted Capital City herself.
Id. While Capital City then proceeded to terminate
Coleman, the school did not notify the authorities of his
behavior. Id. The D.C. Metropolitan Police
Department was not alerted to Coleman's conduct until
April 2016, when a former Kipp DC teacher who Doe also told
of the abuse reached out to the police. See Id.
¶ 35. Coleman subsequently pled guilty to sexual abuse
of a minor in Maryland state court and to first-degree sexual
abuse in D.C. Superior Court. See Docket, People
v. Coleman, No. 130514C (Md. Mongtomery Cty. Cir. Ct.);
Docket, United States v. Coleman, 2016 CF1 011951
(D.C. Sup. Ct.).
filed her complaint in this case on February 2, 2018,
bringing claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Title IX,
and for negligence per se against Kipp DC, Ettinger,
and Capital City (collectively, the “School
Defendants”), gross negligence claims against Ettinger,
and claims for assault, battery, and intentional infliction
of emotional distress (“IIED”) against both
Coleman and the School defendants. See Compl.
¶¶ 58-160. Kipp DC and Ettinger (collectively, the
“Kipp Defendants”) filed a motion to dismiss for
failure to state a claim on March 16, 2018, see Kipp
Mot. Dismiss at 1, ECF No. 6, followed by Capital City on
April 20, 2018, see Capital City Mot. Dismiss at 1,
ECF No. 13, and Coleman on April 23, 2018, see
Coleman Mot. Dismiss at 1, ECF No. 17. All three motions have
been fully briefed.
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require that a complaint
contain “a short and plain statement of the
claim” in order to give the defendant fair notice of
the claim and the grounds upon which it rests. Fed.R.Civ.P.
8(a)(2); accord Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93
(2007) (per curiam). A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6)
does not test a plaintiff's ultimate likelihood of
success on the merits; rather, it tests whether a plaintiff
has properly stated a claim. See Scheuer v. Rhodes,
416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974), abrogated on other grounds by
Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800 (1982). A court
considering such a motion presumes that the complaint's
factual allegations are true and construes them liberally in
the plaintiff's favor. See, e.g., Philip
Morris, 116 F.Supp.2d at 135.
statute of limitations is an affirmative defense, FRCP 8(c),
and need not be negatived by the language of the
complaint.” U.S. ex rel. Landis v. Tailwind Sports
Corp., 51 F.Supp.3d 9, 38 (D.D.C. 2014) (quoting
Jones v. Rogers Mem'l Hosp., 442 F.2d 773, 775
(D.C. Cir. 1971)). As a result, motions to dismiss based on a
statute of limitations defense are generally disfavored, and
the D.C. Circuit has “repeatedly held [that] courts
should hesitate to dismiss a complaint on statute of
limitations grounds based solely on the face of the
complaint.” Firestone v. Firestone, 76 F.3d
1205, 1208-09 (D.C. Cir. 1996). In order for such a motion to
be granted, “the factual allegations in the complaint
must clearly demonstrate all the elements of the statute of
limitations defense and that the plaintiff has no
viable response to the defense.” Landis, 51
F.Supp.3d at 38 (citing Nader v. Democratic Nat'l
Comm., 567 F.3d 692, 699-702 (D.C. Cir. 2009)); see
also Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 215 (2007) (noting
that a “complaint is subject to dismissal for failure
to state a claim” when the allegations “show that
relief is barred by the applicable statute of
their respective motions to dismiss, Defendants all argue
that Doe's claims are barred by the statute of
limitations. See Kipp Mem. Supp. Mot. Dismiss, ECF
No. 6; Capital City Mem. Supp. Mot. Dismiss, ECF No. 13-1;
Coleman Mem. Supp. Mot. Dismiss, ECF No. 17. In her
oppositions, Doe raises several arguments for why her claims
are not time-barred, including application of the discovery
rule, continuing violation of a duty to report, and equitable
tolling. See Pl.'s Opp'n to Kipp Mot.
Dismiss, ECF No. 11. In her opposition to the Capital City
motion to dismiss, Doe also moves in the alternative to amend
the complaint. See Pl's Opp'n to Capital
City Mot. Dismiss at 14, ECF No. 18. The Court first reviews
the parties' arguments as to the Title IX, § 1983,
and IIED claims, followed by their arguments as to Doe's
negligence per se and gross negligence claims, and
their arguments as to the assault and battery claims.
Finally, the Court briefly addresses Doe's motion to
amend the complaint. Because the Court finds that Doe's
claims are time-barred as a matter of law and that the motion
to amend fails to comply with its Local Rules, it grants the
motions to dismiss and denies leave to amend the complaint.
Doe's Title IX, § 1983, and IIED Claims Are
the Defendants argue that the applicable statute of
limitations has passed on Doe's Title IX, § 1983,
and IIED claims. See Kipp Mem. Supp. at 6-11;
Capital City Mem. Supp. at 6-7; Coleman Mem. Supp. at 5-6.
Doe retorts that the discovery rule tolled the statute of
limitations until she realized the wrongfulness of her
relationship with Coleman, and therefore that all three
claims are timely. See, e.g., Pl.'s Kipp
Opp'n at 3-6, 8-9. The Court disagrees and finds that, as
a matter of law, the discovery rule is not applicable to this
case. As a result, the statute of limitations began running
on Doe's claims when she turned eighteen and her claims
The Discovery Rule Does Not Apply
argues that her case “falls squarely with the discovery
rule decisions in the District of Columbia, ” Pl.'s
Kipp Opp'n at 4, because she alleges that she did not
realize she was abused until February 2015. The Court
disagrees. Because past D.C. Court of Appeals decisions and
legislative history consistently suggest that the discovery
rule should not be extended to situations where a victim of
sexual abuse recalls that abuse but does not appreciate its
wrongfulness, the Court declines to extend the discovery rule
to Doe's claims.
initial matter, Doe's IIED claim is pursuant to D.C. law,
and thus subject to D.C. tolling rules. As the School
Defendants acknowledge, neither Title IX nor § 1983
provide for specific statutes of limitations. See
Kipp Mem. Supp. at 3-4; Capital City Mem. Supp. at 6-7.
Instead, “the appropriate statute of limitations for a
§ 1983 claim ‘is that which the State provides for
personal-injury torts.'” Morris v. Carter
Global Lee, Inc., 997 F.Supp.2d 27, 35 (D.D.C. 2013)
(quoting Wallace v. Kato, 549 U.S. 384, 387 (2007)).
For Title IX, “federal law requires applying the local
statute of limitation for the most-analogous injury.”
Mwabira-Simerav. Howard Univ., 692
F.Supp.2d 65, 71 (D.D.C. 2010) (citing Wilson v.
Garcia, 471 U.S. 261, 275 (1985)). “When a federal
cause of action borrows a state statute of limitations,
‘coordinate tolling rules' are usually borrowed as
well.” King-White v. Humble Indep. Sch. Dist.,
803 F.3d 754, 764 (5th Cir. 2015) (quoting Hardin v.
Straub, 490 U.S. 536, 539 (1989)); see also Island
Insteel Sys., Inc. v. Waters, 296 F.3d 200, 210 n.4 (3rd
Cir. 2002) (“[W]here a court borrows a statute of